At the ferry stop for boats heading to Randall’s Island this morning, a security guard called, “Frieze art! Art show! Art show!” Step right up. Like a circus, Frieze New York takes place under a giant tent, and draws in bustling crowds that are eager to take in the main attraction.
This year’s fair, which runs through Sunday, gathers over 190 galleries, hailing from over 25 countries. Color reigns in the aisles, from Vigo’s pinkwashed booth of Derrick Adams portraits to Francesca DiMattio’s vibrant, larger-than-life ceramic sculptures at Pippy Houldsworth. Don’t miss P.P.O.W’s presentation of countless paintings by Steve Keene—priced between $15 and $50, they’re also the fair’s best deal. And near the entrance, visitors encounter one of Frieze’s few somber notes: artist Lauren Halsey’s white columns made in memory of rapper Nipsey Hussle. Here, we share our 10 favorite booths beneath the big top.
Watching well-heeled collectors march on and off Red Grooms’s 1995 fabric-covered replica of a New York City bus (priced at $550,000) is an entertainment in itself. Climb inside the vehicle, and you’ll find the artist’s reliably quirky community of city people: a blond straphanger with huge purple glasses; a boy in a Lions jersey; and a prim, fur-wearing woman with a disapproving expression. Like much of Grooms’s work, the piece celebrates New York itself and the “the weird and wonderful people” the artist meets, as associate director Max Lefort told Artsy. “Don’t forget to pay,” a collector said as he stepped off, nodding towards the meter by the driver’s seat, which requests the nostalgia-inducing fare of “$1.25 or 1 token.”
Salon 94 devotes a nook of its impressive booth to Natalie Frank’s twisted, fairytale-inspired gouache and chalk pastels on paper. In one work, a woman’s chin appears to sprout a second face with a bright-blue nose; another piece features a woman with a petrified stare, as a snake with wide-open jaws unfurls beside her. The fantastical, psychologically charged pieces are rife with floating heads, shadowy background characters, and a menagerie of animals (rabbits, birds, reptiles, a pig).
Nearby, Lisa Brice’s blue-and-white silhouettes of female figures are equally haunting. “We just started working with Natalie, and we thought that both [Lisa and Natalie] present alternative views of women’s sexual identity,” said gallery partner Alissa Friedman. The booth also includes tamer reprieves, such as abstract paintings by Elizabeth Neel (priced at $55,000) and Marina Adams ($48,000), and large-format, color-soaked landscape photographs by David Benjamin Sherry ($30,000). The gallery is also showing Tom Sachs’s Shop Chair ($2,500)—a chair with numerous round cutouts that may resemble Swiss cheese to the hungry fairgoer.
Matthew Ronay’s sculptures burst with color and charm. The artist makes these zany, multi-part constructions (priced between $28,000 and $50,000 apiece) from dyed basswood and flocking, a sprayed fiber that creates a velvety texture. For the first time, he’s created works that interact with the plinths they sit upon. The strategy makes his artworks appear even more alive, at times evoking a drooping body part or a thriving plant.
Biomorphic references abound, from a big blue egg in Scanner (biotic/abiotic) (2019) to the intestinal tract–shaped Biochasm (2019). “I think all of them have this really delicate balance between primordial and futuristic,” said associate director Rosie Motley. She added that Ronay has an extensive “editing” process: He makes a series of charcoal drawings before selecting one to transform into three dimensions.
Various Small Fires
The “yeehaw agenda,” which is infiltrating contemporary pop music and fashion, sees non-white people reclaiming cowboy culture. Despite the images peddled by Hollywood and spaghetti westerns, about 25 percent of cowboys were black in the late 1800s. The young artist Diedrick Brackens takes up the charge with his tapestries.
With a single loom, he merges European, African, and American weaving techniques to create expansive, contemporary narratives about man and horse. The works are self-portraits, in a sense, as the artist often models his figures off of himself. The colorful composition when no softness came (2019) features a green body leaning backwards against an off-white horse, which gallups across a fuschia background. With uneven edges and dangling threads, the work revels in its own imperfections.
Victoria Miro’s booth, at the front of the fair, is prime selfie real-estate. The floor is covered in a field of mirrored spheres, an iteration of Yayoi Kusama’s ever-photogenic Narcissus Garden (1966–present). I couldn’t resist taking a picture of my reflection in the orbs and posting it on Instagram. So are we all narcissists, looking at the work? “Kind of,” Miro hedged.
On the wall behind the installation, the gallerist mounted a nearly 30-foot-long canvas by Chris Ofili, titled to take and to give (2012). Inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses (an epic poem describing the history of the world), Ofili’s painting features a mythological scene on a grand scale. Female figures in bright, bleeding hues twirl toward the sky. Why juxtapose these two—very different—works at Frieze? “It’s an art fair,” said Miro. “And there’s obviously a license you wouldn’t have in a gallery.” The prices for each work are in the range of $700,000 to $1 million.
Look for long enough at Sarah Faux’s painting and canvas collages (each priced between $5,000 and $14,000), and they’ll gradually resolve into depictions of body parts. I’d be a shitty girlfriend (2019) features abstracted pink legs and a hand with nails painted bright red; while in the background, blue eyes peer from a pink face. The collages on the opposite wall extract and reconfigure elements of the painting. One work appears to be a bare breast atop a zebra pattern; another resembles a woman’s nude body, seen from behind. The bright, funky palette and Faux’s thin, swerving line make her oeuvre seem like a feminist response to the jarringly sensual work of Egon Schiele
Olivia Erlanger offers a humorous take on our eternal preoccupation with mermaids (sexy, feminine, great hair, can breathe underwater). Her trio of sculptures for Frieze (priced at $8,000 each) feature supple orange, yellow, and blue mermaid tails flopping out of industrial washing machines. The sculptor appears to be giving not just the mythical creatures a good wash, but their reputation, as well. Sapped of their quintessential human characteristics, these mermaids—and the tropes about women that accompany them—are reduced to mere fish bits. Erlanger has previously exhibited her tails in real laundromats; merging the fantastical and mundane, she makes the creatures appear banal, while making our world look more magical.
Gagosian’s booth sticks out like a leather jacket in a Lilly Pulitzer shop. The mega-gallery decided on black floors and walls for its booth, which is replete with predominantly black-and-white works by Steven Parrino and John Chamberlain. Between Parrino’s multimedia works and Chamberlain’s massive sculptures made from repurposed car parts, the overarching aesthetic is very metal and unapologetically masculine. A gallery representative noted that it’s difficult to see, but there are punk influences behind many of Parrino’s paintings; the artist frequently referenced the Hell’s Angels. Parrino’s canvases are scrunched up or coated with sticky-looking enamel and silicone—affronts to the tradition of painting itself.
Sikkema Jenkins & Co.
Sikkema Jenkins is already looking towards the Whitney Biennial (opening May 17th), which will include its artist, Jeffrey Gibson. The gallery has mounted two Gibson canvases in its booth—BRIGHTER DAYS (2019) and THE HUNTER GETS CAPTURED BY THE GAME (2019), on offer for $220,000 and $250,000, respectively. The gridded works are filled with colorful letters and geometric abstractions, surrounded by a banner of glass beads and artificial sinew inset in a wood frame. Gibson’s work neatly compliments Luiz Zerbini’s geometric abstraction Matemático Vermelho (2019) and Sheila Hicks’s lush Garden Tapestry (ca. 1975), the latter of linen, cotton, wool and silk, which resembles a collection of colorfully bound and freely flowing threads ($400,000).
The gallery is also showing paintings by two artists it just began representing: figurative works by Louis Fratino (beginning around $7,500–$10,000 for a small piece) and a lime-green abstraction by Brenda Goodman ($25,000). “She goes in between abstraction and realistic work,” gallery manager Scott Briscoe said of the latter artist, who makes her work by carving into wood panel, then applying oil paint. “She paints intuitively,” he added.
Buenos Aires–based artist Mariela Scafati created one of the fair’s more provocative installations. She makes sculptures modeled off of her friends and members of her local queer silk printing collective. Each piece is made up of monochromatic canvases of varying sizes that are attached to form figures (individual canvases become thighs, faces, hands, and torsos).
Familia (Daniel, Kinga y Maite) (2019), priced at $18,000, features a green canvas child, sitting against the wall and playing with a Kermit the Frog doll, while its red-and-black-canvas parents engage in kinbaku—Japanese bondage. One parent hangs above the ground, while the other lies on the carpet, strung up by its legs. “It makes sense with the work of Mariela when we think about suspension and restriction and in this environment of restriction,” said gallery director Leopol Mones Cazon. “How much can you support?”